Just How Offensive Is Your Facebook Profile? by Sarah Kessler

Name: Socioclean

Quick Pitch: Socioclean crawls through your Facebook profile photos, groups and wall posts, and alerts you to anything inappropriate.

Genius Idea: In a 2009 Harris Interactive study for CareerBuilder.com, 45% of employers questioned had used social networks to screen job candidates. Thirty-five percent of them decided not to hire a candidate based on what they found.

When this study started to generate press, Priyanshu Harshavat started to think about a way to help job candidates get their social profiles in shape before they were virtually audited by potential employers. The result is Socioclean, a program that scans social profiles for 5,000 words and phrases that are racial, profane, drug-related or alcohol-related.

After a user gives permission for the program to assess his Facebook profile (for now Socioclean is only offered for Facebook — other social networks are on the way), he receives a letter grade and a list of inappropriate items from his profile. Each item has a link to that item on Facebook so that he can easily delete it.

As a generally inoffensive person, I was shocked at how many flagged terms that Socioclean dug up from my profile. Wall messages left by other people were my biggest offense (I got demerits for “beer,” “booze cone” and “hell,” among others). The program also reminded me about the “Aaron Burr, you son of a b**ch” group I had joined sometime during my freshman year of college. I posted one mildly offensive status message to my profile before testing the program, naively thinking that it wouldn’t have much to find otherwise, and it found that as well. Most of my infractions were things that I would never have noticed, and many were innocent — discussing about a bon “fire,” for instance, was flagged as “aggressive.” But it definitely didn’t miss anything. There were enough flags to earn an overall grade of a “D.”

Businesses like Reputation.com and Brand-Yourself also help polish online reputations, but these startups are taking an SEO approach that helps push down negative and pull up positive search results for your name. Socioclean is the only service we know of that focuses on deleting offensive items from your social profiles.

About 5,000 other people and I have run our profiles through the program at no cost. To help make it profitable, the company is currently courting job website and dating website partners. The hope is to offer a social profile scrub as an option to applicants and daters to make them more successful on their respective online services. Socioclean’s developers also created a version of the product for employers who want their employees to self-monitor their social profiles.

Yet another potential revenue source is to sell site licenses to universities to use in their career services departments. Some universities have already expressed interest in helping spruce up their graduates’ online resumes — Syracuse University, for instance, purchased subscriptions to Brand-Yourself for 4,100 of its graduating seniors.

Even if schools decide to teach students to set their Facebook privacy settings instead of similarly embracing Socioclean, there are likely enough situations in which a squeaky clean profile is necessary — college applications, job applications, dating and professional networking included — to keep Socioclean in business.

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About socioclean

I am a technologist/visionary trying to predict all the time where technology is going to take us next. I have founded a couple of companies most recent being Sociosecure and Socioclean, and my passion lies in social networking and how its shaping our lives.
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4 Responses to Just How Offensive Is Your Facebook Profile? by Sarah Kessler

  1. Mark Taylor says:

    What a great idea, but after running your scan on my Facebook account, I have to wonder if this a very large leg-pull or someone afflicted with a rather terrible case terminal political correctness.

    I have now been through every one of the highlighted problem words, and have concluded that Socioclean is great at reading words from a list of potential bad behaviours, but absolutely rubbish at reading words in context, or even reading words written by English speakers who are not in a first-world society.

    Some examples:

    xxx to me is sweet when my daughter tags on the end of a birthday message … it is not sexual

    Mick is my family nickname, so have I really used profanity when using it?

    Acid is not drug-related when it is the word following citric.

    A status message reporting a rather fun snowball fight is not aggressive talk.

    fire, fireplace, fire-truck are not terms of aggression.

    And the list goes on. This could be a really useful tool, even worth paying for, if it can get over the hysteria and paranoia of thinking that we cannot use ordinary little words in their correct contexts and meanings because some would-be employer might determine us to be very bad people because we send too many xxx’s to people we love.

    • socioclean says:

      Mark,

      Thank you for trying Socioclean. We are working diligently to improve the results returned – for now we are taking a “better safe than sorry approach” so nothing slips through the cracks.

  2. Tyler says:

    Your application advocates a pungent degree of political correctness. By incorrectly applying double entendre to dozens of comments and posts that are perfectly socially acceptable when taken in proper context, your application has the ability to vilify virtually everyone. I understand that this is meant to be an informative tool for the user only, but the algorithm needs tweeking if you don’t want to have to endure ridicule from your users for your having accused them of committing social acts of sexual, racial, and overly-aggressive deviancy for the natural and proper use of words. To add insult to injury, after using your service and subsequently being appalled by it, you require a minimum of 2 hours to delete my account. I will not be using this application ever again. I’ll self-police from now on, thank you very much.

  3. Lary Crews says:

    Still needs work.
    I got flagged for my work toward “same sex marriage”, for my friend Dick Semster, for an article I did about the town of Intercourse PA being asked to change its name by Right Wingers, and every instance of someone being “laid off” from a job.

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